GOLF Magazine's biennial Top 100 Courses in the World Rankings are determined by a 100-strong international panel whose members include major-championship winners, architects, journalists and a cadre of connoisseurs who have played all of the world's top 100 courses. Panelists evaluate a ballot of 493 courses. Although there are no set-in-stone criteria they must follow, we have confidence in their sense of what constitutes "greatness" in a course.
Each course that places in the top three on a ballot earns 100 points; spots 4-10 earn 85 points, followed by 11–25 (70 pts), 26–50 (60 pts), 51–75 (50 pts), 76–100 (40 pts), 101–150 (30 pts), 151–200 (20 pts), 201–250 (10 pts) and 251+ (0 pts). Course owners can’t vote for their properties, and architects can't vote for their original designs.
1. Pine Valley Pine Valley, N.J., U.S. George Crump/H.S. Colt, 1918
2. Cypress Point Pebble Beach, Calif., U.S. Alister MacKenzie, 1928
3. St. Andrews (Old Course) St. Andrews, Scotland Nature, 1400s
4. Augusta National Augusta, Ga., U.S. Alister MacKenzie/Bobby Jones, 1933
5. Royal County Down Newcastle, N. Ireland Old Tom Morris, 1889
6. Shinnecock Hills Southampton, N.Y., U.S. William Flynn, 1931
7. Pebble Beach Pebble Beach, Calif., U.S. Jack Neville/Douglas Grant, 1919
8. Oakmont Oakmont, Pa., U.S. Henry Fownes, 1903
9. Muirfield Gullane, Scotland Old Tom Morris, 1891/H.S. Colt, 1925
10. National Golf Links of America Southampton, N.Y., U.S. C.B. Macdonald, 1911
11. Merion (East) Ardmore, Pa., U.S. Hugh Wilson, 1912
12. Royal Melbourne (West) Melbourne, Australia Alister MacKenzie, 1926
13. Sand Hills Mullen, Neb., U.S. Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, 1994
14. Royal Dornoch (Championship) Dornoch, Scotland Old Tom Morris, 1886
15. Royal Portrush (Dunluce) Portrush, N. Ireland H.S. Colt, 1929
16. Pinehurst (No. 2) Pinehurst, N.C., U.S. Donald Ross, 1907
17. Ballybunion (Old) Ballybunion, Ireland Lionel Hewson, 1906/Tom Simpson, 1936
18. Fishers Island Fishers Island, N.Y., U.S. Seth Raynor, 1926
19. Seminole Juno Beach, Fla., U.S. Donald Ross, 1929
20. Winged Foot (West) Mamaroneck, N.Y., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1923
21. Pacific Dunes Bandon, Ore., U.S. Tom Doak, 2001
22. Crystal Downs Frankfort, Mich., U.S. Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell, 1932
23. Trump Turnberry (Ailsa) Turnberry, Scotland Willie Fernie, 1902/P. Mac-kenzie Ross, 1951
24. San Francisco San Francisco, Calif., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1918
25. Carnoustie (Championship) Carnoustie, Scotland A.Robertson, 1842/Old Tom Morris, 1872/James Braid, 1926
26. Chicago Wheaton, Ill., U.S. C.B. Macdonald, 1895/Seth Raynor, 1923
27. Prairie Dunes Hutchinson, Kan., U.S. Perry Maxwell, 1937/Press Maxwell, 1957
28. Kingston Heath Melbourne, Australia Dan Soutar 1925/Alister MacKenzie, 1928
29. Riviera Pacific Palisades, Calif., U.S. George C. Thomas Jr./Billy Bell Sr., 1926
30. Los Angeles (North) Los Angeles, Calif., U.S. George C. Thomas Jr., 1921
31. Friar's Head Baiting Hollow, N.Y., U.S. Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw, 2003
32. Royal Birkdale Southport, England George Lowe Jr., 1889/Fred Hawtree, 1932
33. Royal St. George's Sandwich, England W. Laidlaw Purves, 1887
34. The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel) Brookline, Mass., U.S. Willie Campbell, 1895/Rees Jones, 1985
35. Sunningdale (Old) Sunningdale, England Willie Park Jr., 1901/H.S. Colt, 1922
36. Barnbougle (Dunes) Bridport, Tasmania, Australia Tom Doak/Mike Clay-ton, 2004
37. New South Wales La Perouse, Australia Alister MacKenzie, 1928/Eric Apperly, 1951
38. Diamante (Dunes) Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Davis Love III/Mark Love/Paul Cowley, 2010
39. Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog) La Romana, Dominican Republic, Pete Dye, 1971
40. Cape Kidnappers Hawke's Bay, New Zealand Tom Doak, 2004
41. Lahinch (Old) Lahinch, Ireland Old Tom Morris, 1894/Alister MacKenzie, 1927
42. Hirono Kobe, Japan C.H. Alison, 1932
43. Nine Bridges Jeju Island, South Korea Ron Fream/David Dale, 2001
44. Oakland Hills (South) Bloomfield Hills, Mich., U.S. Donald Ross, 1917/Robert Trent Jones Sr., 1950
45. Morfontaine Senlis, France Tom Simpson, 1927
46. Bethpage (Black) Farmingdale, N.Y., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1936
47. Shanqin Bay Bo'ao, Hainan Island, China Bill Coore/Ben Cren-shaw, 2012
48. Trump International Golf Links Aberdeen, Scotland Martin Hawtree, 2012
49. Royal Troon (Old) Troon, Scotland Willie Fernie, 1887
50. Kiawah Island (Ocean) Kiawah Island, S.C., U.S. Pete Dye, 1991
51. Garden City Golf Club Garden City, N.Y., U.S. Devereux Emmet, 1899/Walter Travis, 1906
52. Whistling Straits (Straits) Kohler, Wis., U.S. Pete Dye, 1998
53. Muirfield Village Dublin, Ohio, U.S. Jack Nicklaus/Desmond Muirhead, 1974
54. TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., U.S. Pete Dye, 1980
55. Portmarnock (Old) Portmarnock, Ireland George Ross/W.C. Pickeman, 1894
56. Shoreacres Lake Bluff, Ill., U.S. Seth Raynor, 1921
57. Camargo Indian Hill, Ohio, U.S. Seth Raynor, 1921
58. Oitavos Dunes Cascais, Portugal Arthur Hills, 2001
59. Baltusrol (Lower) Springfield, N.J., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1922
60. Olympic (Lake) San Francisco, Calif., U.S. Sam Whiting, 1927
61. Royal Lytham & St. Annes Lytham St. Annes, England George Lowe Jr., 1897
62. Southern Hills Tulsa, Okla., U.S. Perry Maxwell, 1936
63. North Berwick (West) North Berwick, Scotland David Strath, 1878
64. Bandon Dunes Bandon, Ore., U.S. David McLay Kidd, 1999
65. Kingsbarns St. Andrews, Scotland Kyle Phillips, 2000
66. Maidstone East Hampton, N.Y., U.S. Willie Park Jr., 1924
67. Kawana (Fuji) Kawana, Japan C.H. Alison, 1936
68. Oak Hill (East) Rochester, N.Y., U.S. Donald Ross, 1923
69. Castle Stuart Inverness, Scotland Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen, 2009
70. Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin) Woodhall Spa, England Harry Vardon, 1905/H.S. Colt, 1912/V. Hotchkin, 1926
71. Somerset Hills Bernardsville, N.J., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1918
72. The Golf Club New Albany, Ohio, U.S. Pete Dye, 1967
73. Ellerston Ellerston, Australia Greg Norman/Bob Harrison, 2001
74. Quaker Ridge Scarsdale, N.Y., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1926
75. Cabot Links Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada Rod Whitman, 2012
76. Ayodhya Links Bangkok, Thailand Thom-son/Perrett/Lobb/Pitak Intrawityanunt, 2007
77. Cruden Bay Cruden Bay, Scotland Herbert Fowler/Tom Simpson, 1926
78. Ballyneal Holyoke, Colo., U.S. Tom Doak, 2006
79. Inverness Toledo, Ohio, U.S. Donald Ross, 1919
80. Ganton Ganton, England Harry Vardon, 1905
81. California Golf Club of S.F. S. San Francisco, Calif., U.S. A.V. Macan, 1926/A. MacKenzie, 1928/Kyle Phillips, 2007
82. Royal Liverpool Hoylake, England George Morris, 1869
83. Waterville Waterville, Ireland Eddie Hackett, 1973
84. Winged Foot (East) Mamaroneck, N.Y., U.S. A.W. Tillinghast, 1923
85. Barnbougle Lost Farm Bridport, Tasmania, Australia Bill Coore/Ben Cren-shaw, 2010
86. Walton Heath (Old) Tadworth, England Herbert Fowler, 1904
87. St. George's Islington, Ontario, Canada Stanley Thompson, 1929
88. Royal Porthcawl Porthcawl, Wales H.S. Colt, 1913
89. Swinley Forest Ascot, England H.S. Colt, 1910
90. European Club Brittas Bay, Ireland Pat Ruddy, 1992
91. Harbour Town Hilton Head Island, S.C., U.S. Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus, 1969
92. Koninklijke Haagsche Wassenaar, Netherlands H.S. Colt/C.H. Alison, 1938/Frank Pont, 2007
93. Machrihanish Machrihanish, Scotland Charles Hunter, 1876/Old Tom Morris, 1879
94. Kauri Cliffs Kerikeri, New Zealand David Harman, 2000
95. Sunningdale (New) Sunningdale, England H.S. Colt, 1922
96. Tokyo Tokyo, Japan Komyo Ohtani, 1940
97. Durban Country Club Durban, South Africa Laurie Waters/George Waterman, 1922
98. Rye Camber, England H.S. Colt, 1894/Tom Simpson, 1932/Guy Campbell, 1938
99. Valderrama Sotogrande, Spain Robert Trent Jones Sr., 1974
100. Cabo del Sol (Ocean) Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Jack Nicklaus, 1994
Cabo del Sol (Ocean)
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
The most spectacular south-of-the-border experience since the original Cinco de Mayo, this 1994 Jack Nicklaus design features back-to-back oceanside par-3s on the front side and a closing trio that’s Mexico’s best. The par-3 17th is the showstopper, with its cliff-top tee box, cactus-covered hillsides and Sea of Cortez backdrop.
Said its architect, Robert Trent Jones Sr. of one of his favorite five designs, “The greatest golfers in the world have found it a difficult test, yet it is beautiful and playable for the club member.” This impeccably manicured 1997 Ryder Cup host, long considered the Augusta National of Europe for conditioning, features narrow, cork tree-framed fairways, sculptured bunkers, small greens and the short but diabolical par-5 17th, that was infamously toughened by Seve Ballesteros.
Rye Golf Club
Home to the legendary President’s Putter match contested by the Oxford and Cambridge Golfing Society—famously in January—Rye won’t scare anyone with its scrawny par of 68 and scorecard yardage of 6,308 from the back tees, but when the winds blow off the nearby English Channel in southeast England, it can feel like 7,308 yards. Wildly rollicking fairways that yield an unending variety of lies and stances, blind shots through the dune ridges and a quintet of rugged par-3s are highlights.
Durban Country Club
Durban, South Africa
Rumpled fairways, dune valleys, Indian Ocean breezes and serious history (Gary Player, Bobby Locke and Ernie Els have won multiple South African Opens here) make it a must-play. Located less than 100 meters from the Indian Ocean’s Golden Coastline, Durban is a 1922 design from Laurie Waters and George Waterman. Waters, a Scot who apprenticed under Old Tom Morris and later emigrated to South Africa, won four South African Opens, including the very first ever played, in 1903.
Tokyo Golf Club
A gently rolling parkland layout that still features the old two-green system on each hole, Tokyo Golf Club has played host to seven Japan Opens, including four at its current location, most recently in 2001. Among the most popular champions was Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki in 1988, though Tokyo played tough that week, with 4-over-par the winning score. Gil Hanse renovated Tokyo in 2010 and stated that one of his greatest pleasures here was to restore some of the elements and soul of the C.H. Alison design work, especially to the green complexes.
The oft-overlooked sibling compared to its charming elder, the Old, H.S. Colt’s 92-year-old companion finally stands on its own merits. Supporters have long praised it as the superior modern test. At 6,729 yards, it’s longer than the Old by 300 yards and traverses higher ground. It’s also stronger, with lengthy carries over heather and sharper drop-offs around the elevated greens, putting a premium on well-struck approaches. Moreover, it’s truer to its heathland setting, with fewer trees and deeper bunkers.
Kerikeri, New Zealand
Kauri Cliffs has been overshadowed in recent years by its younger sibling, the Tom Doak-designed Cape Kidnappers, but for sheer scenery and variety, it easily holds its own. Fifteen holes either play alongside the Pacific Ocean or overlook it and what’s astonishing is the utter lack of development. On the back nine especially, you’re greeted with stunning vistas of the Bay of Islands, a series of small, jagged rocky outposts that pop out of the water and lend texture and definition. A recent Rees Jones renovation has improved the par-3 fifth, transforming it from a long uphill hole to a lovely drop-shot test.
This remote Old Tom Morris design entrances more for its ambience than for its challenge. Known for its enchanting opening hole that demands a drive over the beach, Machrihanish provides a gleeful romp through shaggy sandhills on the front nine. The closing stretch is a letdown, yet the Kintyre Peninsula wind and scenery makes for a complete test overall.
Better known to English speakers as “Royal Hague,” or simply, “The Hague,” The Netherlands’ first Top 100 contribution actually belongs to the nation’s oldest golf club, which dates to 1893. “Haagsche,” as it’s also called, is a 1938 H.S. Colt/C.H. Alison/J.S.F. Morrison creation that eventually replaced the club’s existing course which was destroyed in World War II. Chaotically heaving fairways amid substantial dunes and inland forests set the tone for a remarkable lay-of-the-land journey.
Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A favorite of PGA Tour pros for more than 40 years, Harbour Town boasts the iconic candy cane-striped lighthouse that backdrops the 18th hole—and so much more. A place of subtle beauty, this is a shotmaker’s paradise where power takes a backseat to precision. Mixing live oaks, lagoons, tiny greens, bunkers banked by railroad ties and a closing stretch along the Calibogue Sound, this Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaboration delights and terrorizes at every turn.
Brittas Bay, Ireland
Johnny Miller once stated that he’d “love to see the British Open played here.” For years, Padraig Harrington tuned up his pre-Open links game here—and twice won Opens a week later. From the tips, the world’s 86th ranked course is a rugged test, but the aesthetics match the challenge, thanks to holes that twist through amphitheaters of giant dunes and others that edge the Irish Sea.
England's Harry S. Colt, one of the giants of early 20th Century architecture, called this 1910 design "the least bad course" he had ever built, proving as Tom Doak memorably puts it, he "was no Muhammed Ali when it came to self-promotion." One of the most lightly played private clubs in Britain, this quiet enclave features wide, wooded fairways, gigantic bursts of rhododendrons in springtime and a back tee yardage under 6,100. Yet, par is only 68 and matching it requires excellent ball-striking, due primarily to a series of meaty par-4s.
Bob Hope competed in the 1951 British Amateur here, but Tiger Woods found little humor in his Day 1 singles loss at the 1995 Walker Cup. This rumpled H.S. Colt redesign opens with three stout par-4s along the beach, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel. Porthcawl then turns inland, traversing higher ground, but never lets up.
Islington, Ontario, Canada
Preeminent Canadian architect Stanley Thompson hit his professional peak at this quiet club near downtown Toronto that went by Royal York from 1928 to 1946 until it ended its affiliation with the Canadian Pacific Railway. The wonderful rolling parkland terrain is replete with streams and natural valleys and has witnessed five Canadian Opens, most recently in 2010 when Carl Pettersson captured the title, conquering one of the nation’s strongest closing quartet of holes in the process. Tom Doak and Ian Andrew spearheaded a restoration that was completed in 2015.
Walton Heath (Old)
Its bleak, heathland setting won't set anyone aglow but as a test of character and shotmaking, Walton Heath has few peers. A superb, strategic delight, it is stern but fair, with heather, gorse, rough and bunkers that must be avoided at all costs. Yet, the chalk beneath the sandy subsoil allows for firm fairways that yield plenty of links-like run. Host to many important tournaments in the past 100 years, Walton Heath was the venue of the 1981 Ryder Cup, when arguably the strongest American side of all time -- featuring Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd, Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite to name eight -- demolished the Europeans, 18.5 to 9.5.
Barnbougle Lost Farm
Bridport, Tasmania, Australia
The companion to Barnbougle Dunes yields a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design that differs from its Tasmanian sibling in that its huge dunes run both parallel and perpendicular to the ocean, so holes play up and over the dunes, as well as between them. The exposed, gorgeous par-3 4th that juts out to the tip of Sally's Point invites comparisons to Pebble Beach's 7th.
Winged Foot (East)
Neither as long nor as tough as its illustrious West sibling, the equally attractive East is preferred by many course connoisseurs for its superior pacing and variety. No stranger to big-time events, the A.W. Tillinghast-designed East witnessed Roberto DeVicenzo claim the very first U.S. Senior Open here in 1980. A 2015 restoration by Gil Hanse put back many of the most ingenious green contours that had been lost or changed over time.
Sam Snead once called Waterville a “magnificent monster.” Raymond Floyd had a softer assessment, stating that Waterville is “one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.” They’re both right. Its slithering par-5 11th, hemmed in by dune ridges and its seaside par-3 17th, with a back tee isolated by dense vegetation and backdropped by MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, are both world-class. A 2006 renovation by Tom Fazio helped balance the two nines by removing some artificial features and blending new features into existing dunescape.
“Hoylake,” as it’s popularly known, will hosted its 12th Open Championship in 2014. And although there wasn’t much weather to speak of, nor was much present in 2006, in each case, the world’s number one prevailed, Tiger Woods in ’06 and Rory McIlroy in ’14. Royal Liverpool is not a pretty course. There are no lighthouses, or mountains or wild majestic undulations. Its fairways are flat, its vistas bleak. There’s internal out-of-bounds all over the lot. Yet, when the wind is up, it’s one of earth’s fiercest links, one that requires supreme shotmaking.
California Golf Club of San Francisco
South San Francisco, Calif.
For most of its 80-year history, the Cal Club, as locals call it, served up a well-regarded Bay Area course, but one that clearly played third fiddle to Olympic and San Francisco. Not anymore. Following a Kyle Phillips re-do that was part restoration and part re-design, many feel this private A. Vernon Macan/Alister MacKenzie layout is now near-equal to its more venerated neighbors. Yanking out trees to restore city skyline and mountain views and reinstalling the sprawling, multi-lobed MacKenzie bunkers have elevated the Cal Club to rarified air.
Venue for the 1949 Ryder Cup, Ganton excels via its rural setting in the Yorkshire countryside, via its stern, brilliantly conceived bunkering and via its consistently excellent par-4s. Frequent changes of direction in the routing, firm, fast-running fairways, gorse patches and a compelling set of finishing holes combine to form one of the world’s great inland links.
A marvelous collection of Donald Ross-designed par-4s set the stage for two of Greg Norman’s most crushing defeats, the first when Bob Tway holed a bunker shot to win the 1986 PGA Championship, the second when the Shark lipped out putts on two straight holes, handing the 1993 PGA Championship playoff win to Paul Azinger. A recent renovation has restored Ross features, but also added length to test today’s tournament players.
Tom Doak’s 2006 design in the remote, treeless prairie of northeastern Colorado plays like a links, hard and fast, with sandhills, fescues and a different wind every day. The 335-yard, par-4 7th is one of golf’s great short holes, drivable for some, and with its skillfully placed bunkers and wickedly contoured, E-shaped green, interesting for all others, no matter the distance of the second shot.
Cruden Bay, Scotland
Drenched in quirky charm, this certified cult classic is a personal favorite of both Pete Dye and Tom Doak. Situated 23 miles north of Aberdeen and ranked 79th in the world, Cruden Bay offers one wild seaside hole after the next, including the head-scratching par-4 14th, with its funnel-shaped green and the stunning par-3 4th, which overlooks the Water of Cruden and the fishing village of Port Erroll.
Ayodhya is not an actual links. There’s no sand underneath and no sea next door. What it does have, however is an inspired design and a remarkable set of greens. Conceived and routed by Aussie legend Peter Thomson and his partner Ross Perrett, the design was completed by co-founder and chairman Pitak Intrawityanunt in 2007. Forced to rebuild after a 2011 flood, Ayodhya emerged better than ever, with superior conditioning and a remarkable variety of holes—and no weak links. Ayodhya dishes out a supreme challenge via its 7,626 yards, its cunningly placed bunkers and most notably via its ingeniously sculpted greens.
Inverness, Nova Scotia, Canada
Developers Ben Cowan-Dewar and Mike Keiser handed over a rolling plot of coastal Nova Scotia terrain to architect Rod Whitman and the result is Canada’s first authentic links. Firm, rumpled, fescue fairways, coastal breezes and endless views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence make it abundantly clear why Nova Scotia is the Latin name for “New Scotland.”
This quiet club across the street from Winged Foot counts Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye as admirers. Its outstanding cluster of gently rolling par-4s, notably the 6th and the 11th, provided a terrific canvas for amateurs such as Justin Rose and Jason Gore in the 1997 Walker Cup Match. Dating to 1916, the course was made over by A.W. Tillinghast in 1926.
Ellerston, New South Wales, Australia
Greg Norman has never been shy about professing his admiration for Alister MacKenzie’s design philosophy. At ultra-exclusive Ellerston, he and design partner Bob Harrison adapted MacKenzie strategies and bunker stylings on a rugged tract four hours northwest of Sydney, resulting in the one of the strongest, most option-laden tests in the Southern Hemisphere. Forced carries over ravines, greens set along ridge-tops and the influence of Pages Creek add to the challenge.
The Golf Club
New Albany, Ohio
One of Pete Dye’s early masterworks, circa 1967, this men-only domain in suburban Columbus was where Jack Nicklaus got his introduction to design, as an unpaid consultant. With bunkers and water hazards framed by railroad ties and tall native grasses scattered throughout, the distinctive Dye style began to take hold. A superb set of par-5s is a highlight.
A wonderful routing on a tight piece of property not far from the USGA headquarters showcases A.W. Tillinghast’s imagination, while his brilliant Redan-style par-3 2nd hole shows that he could adapt with the best of them. A restoration by Tom Doak and associate Brian Slawnik helped put back firm and fast conditions along with reestablished bunkers and green edges. Yanking out numerous trees has yielded better conditions, and a better appreciation for the marvelous terrain.
Woodhall Spa (Hotchkin)
Woodhall Spa, England
Harry Vardon left us much more than six Open Championship wins and a grip. Woodhall Spa is Vardon’s design legacy, an intriguing heathland/”inland links” blend, an oasis of tumbling terrain amid the surrounding flat fenland of Lincolnshire. Formidably deep bunkers are Woodhall Spa’s defining trait, along with plentiful gorse and a stellar set of par-3s. Credit architects H.S. Colt and S.V. Hotchkin for enhancing Vardon’s work and turning the course into one of golf’s supreme shotmaking tests.
GOLF Magazine’s Top New International Course of 2009 has maintained its early lofty results thanks to a brilliant Gil Hanse/Mark Parsinen design that was effusively praised by Phil Mickelson—and that was before he won the 2013 Scottish Open here. Wide fairways, wild and woolly bunkers and eye candy panoramas of Moray Firth and the Scottish Highlands are highlights.
Oak Hill (East)
Host to three U.S. Opens, the 1995 Ryder Cup and a handful of PGA Championships, including 2013, when Jason Dufner triumphed, Oak Hill has witnessed numerous renovations since it debuted in 1924. Yet, its character is unmistakably Donald Ross, thanks to such holes as the 323-yard, par-4 14th, its vexing undulations yielding superb risk/reward opportunities.
Japan's answer to Pebble Beach is this 1936 creation from legendary British architect C.H. Alison, with help from Kinta Fujita that boasts staggering views of snow-capped Mt. Fuji and cliff-top panoramas of the Pacific Ocean. Alison's superb bunkering and strategies mix with undulating terrain that make it worth the 3-hour trip from Tokyo.
East Hampton, N.Y.
One of the nation's oldest and most socially prestigious clubs has offered golf since 1891. However, its current layout is a Willie Park Jr. design (with help from brother John) that dates to 1924. Recently restored by Bill Coore, Maidstone's edge-of-the-Atlantic location is fully realized by the course's mid-section, which skirts the dunes and beach.
St. Andrews, Scotland
Co-host of the PGA European Tour's Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, this 1999 Kyle Phillips design 15 miles from the Old Course boasts the respect of links fans everywhere, who relish such holes as the 606-yard, par-5 12th, which arcs around the bay and the 212-yard, par-3 15th that demands a carry over the sea. The seamless melding of flat farmland and Old World links contours has earned the respect of even the toughest course critics.
Bandon's original course is a David McLay Kidd design draped atop craggy headlands above the Pacific. Ocean views stun the senses, along with bluff-top sand dunes sprinkled with Scotch broom and gorse bushes, coastal pines, crashing surf, wind-whipped tall native grasses, and stacked sod bunkers. The most memorable seaside tests are the par-4 fourth, the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th, each with eye-popping scenery and enjoyable risk/rewards.
North Berwick (West)
North Berwick, Scotland
East of Edinburgh sits this fabled links -- at least in architectural circles -- thanks to its 15th hole, the much-copied "Redan," a par-3 played to an elevated, diagonal green. In the memorability department, however, it takes a backseat to the par-4 13th, "The Pit," whose green sits directly behind a low stone wall. In terms of original holes and pure fun, North Berwick has few peers.
Southern Hills Country Club
Site of three U.S. Opens and a quartet of PGA Championships, this Depression-era Perry Maxwell design rolls out heat, humidity, wind and stern rough framing fairways and greens. Maxwell's oval and clamshell bunkers lack imaginative shaping, but they're perfectly placed. The 9th and 18th both climb steep hills to reach the greens, the latter being one of the game's toughest closing par-4s. Tougher still is the creek-guarded 12th, which Ben Hogan once called the greatest par-4 in the U.S.
Royal Lytham & St. Annes
Lytham St. Annes, England
Roughly 200 bunkers menace this rugged links that has hosted Open Championships since 1926. One of those bunkers in particular, in the left-center of the 18th fairway, cost Adam Scott the 2012 Open. There are no views of the sea here, but the wind and vegetation shout "seaside." Best of all at Lytham was Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, who won here in 1979 and 1988.
Olympic Club (Lake)
San Francisco, Calif.
Laid out on the side of a hill overlooking Lake Merced, its fairways hemmed in by thousands of cypress and eucalyptus trees, its greens and landing areas bracketed by wrist-fracturing rough, Olympic has proved to be an imposing test for five U.S. Opens. On fog-free days, the 247-yard, par-3 third enjoys stellar views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Rivaling Pennsylvania's Oakmont as the course that has entertained the most U.S. Opens, this sturdy, leafy A.W. Tillinghast-designed test most recently threw its well-bunkered heft around during the 2005 PGA Championship when Phil Mickelson triumphed in the heat. Sports Illustrated once named its par-3 4th the best 4th hole in the U.S. Its unusual finish, back-to-back par-5s has twice ushered Jack Nicklaus into the U.S. Open winner's circle and will help crown another PGA champion in 2016.
Situated 30 minutes west of Lisbon, Oitavos Dunes rolls out an Arthur Hills design that peers down at the Atlantic Ocean at every turn and traverses three distinct landscapes, from dense stands of umbrella pines to sprawling, scrub-covered dunes to open, coastal transition areas bracketed by vegetation and buffeted by sea breezes. It's not quite a pure links, but it's close.
Indian Hill, Ohio
This low-key 1926 Seth Raynor creation in suburban Cincinnati dishes out extremely deep bunkers and huge, squared-off greens on a property laced with valleys and ravines. The usual Macdonald/Raynor template holes are in place, from a Biarritz to a Redan, yet the two strongest par-3s might be the 5th and the 11th, modeled after the two one-shotters at St. Andrews.
Lake Bluff, Ill.
Steep ravines affect play throughout the back nine on this short but sweet 1921 Seth Raynor parkland design. Set into rolling terrain on Chicago's North Shore, alongside Lake Michigan, Shoreacres benefitted from a 2007 Tom Doak restoration that revitalized classic template holes such as Biarritz-style par-3 6th and the Redan-style par-3 14th.
This low-profile but character-filled Dublin-area links played host to the 1991 Walker Cup, where Phil Mickelson and the Yanks prevailed, despite strong efforts from Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley. Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam are among those who captured Irish Opens here. Arnold Palmer once tabbed the 15th as one of golf's best par-3s. Deep pot bunkers and low dunes that offer little protection from the wind make Portmarnock Ireland's sternest, yet fairest championship test.
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium)
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Venue for the PGA Tour's Players Championship since 1982, Pete Dye's imaginatively-designed, variety-filled and occasionally terror-inducing track has crowned winners such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman and Adam Scott. One of the wildest finishes took place in 2013, when Sergio Garcia, tied with Woods, splashed two tee shots at the infamous island-green 17th, made quadruple-bogey, and sunk to eighth place. Some sniff at its artificiality, yet for shotmaking options and memorable individual holes that require a blend of power and finesse, TPC Sawgrass has few peers.
Conceived by Jack Nicklaus in 1966 to be his hometown equivalent of Bobby Jones' Augusta National, this 1974 collaboration with architect Desmond Muirhead was an instant smash, as much for its strategic design as for its flawless conditioning. Equally impressive was how Nicklaus seamlessly integrated spectator areas into the closing holes, using hillsides and amphitheater-style mounding to provide patrons with clear views of the action.
Whistling Straits (Straits)
Venue for the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships, this 1998 Pete Dye design on Lake Michigan was once a poker table-flat military training base in World War II. Eventually it became a site for illegal dumping of toxic waste. Dye and owner Herb Kohler engineered a mind-boggling cleanup, moved 3 million cubic yards of dirt, trucked in 7,000 loads of sand to create the hills and bunkers and relocated the bluffs farther back from the shore. All Kohler told Dye was "I want the course to look like it's in Ireland." Mission accomplished.
Garden City Golf Club
Garden City, N.Y.
This ancient, men-only Long Island layout dates to 1899. Devereux Emmet and Walter Travis most influenced the design, which today plays as firm and as fast as any British links, much as it did in the old days, with tall fescue and sea breezes constant companions. Laurie Auchterlonie captured the 1902 U.S. Open here with record scores, owing to the debut of the longer, more durable Haskell ball.
Kiawah Island (Ocean)
Kiawah Island, S.C.
A blend of tidal marsh carries, scrub-topped dunes and wildly undulating greens pair with 7,600 muscular yards to form a relentless mix of beauty and brawn. While architect Pete Dye has softened his greens and their surrounds over years, the Ocean Course remains among the toughest tests in the country. That's what competitors in the 1991 "War by the Shore" Ryder Cup maintain; Rory McIlroy, who decimated the course in winning the 2012 PGA Championship, might feel differently.
Royal Troon (Old)
Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson are among the Americans who have won at Troon, yet the most memorable shot was struck by a non-winner, 71-year-old Gene Sarazen, who aced the 123-yard, "Postage Stamp" 8th during the 1973 Open -- with a 5-iron! While some argue that the closing stretch is flattish and dull, it is undeniably tough, earning Troon its long-held accolades
Trump International Golf Links
Blend the towering dunes of Ballybunion, the relentless challenge of Carnoustie and the legendary bombast of Donald Trump and you'd have a British Open for the ages. Trump Scotland serves up a superb collection of par-3s and a set of fully exposed back tees perched atop sandhills. The standout on the back is the 14th, with its valley fairway and glorious North Sea vistas.
Bo'ao, Hainan Island, China
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw's first effort in Asia is a bluff-top stunner overlooking the South China Sea on Hainan's Southeast coast. Ever-present wind, firm, fast-running turf, craggy bunkers and semi-blind shots -- as well as jaw-dropping aesthetics combine to provide a links-like experience that is unique to China. Its most memorable holes, such as the par-3 3rd and 15, 16 and 17, a trio of stirring par-4s, serve up staggering panoramas of sea and beach.
Bethpage ( Black)
In the education of a golfer, Bethpage Black is a bar exam. The Black scares golfers with a sign at the first tee: "Warning -- The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers." Among the highly skilled? Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover, who captured the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens here. The "People's Open," as the 2002 U.S. Open came to be known, brutalized players with its Rees Jones-restored A.W. Tillinghast layout, owing to rugged, uphill par-4s, massive bunkers and wrist-fracturing rough. Woods was the only golfer to break par for 72 holes.
Tucked away in a nearly impossible-to-find forested location 40 miles north of Paris is a low-key heathland design that is utterly charming and utterly private. A bold start that features a 475-yard par-4 and a 225-yard par-3 give way to gentler, though strategically rich holes that were favorites of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a frequent visitor. Architect Kyle Phillips recently created a new 12th green, lengthening the hole, but otherwise, the Golden Age design is virtually untouched since its inception.
Oakland Hills (South)
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Ben Hogan called this course a "monster" in capturing the 1951 U.S. Open, thanks to a severe course setup and alterations by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Following events such as the 2004 Ryder Cup and 2008 PGA Championship won by Padraig Harrington, the brilliant Donald Ross routing and beguiling green contouring has restored its status to "great," as opposed to "hard."
Jeju Island, South Korea
Nine Bridges' appeal starts with its tranquil setting, with holes etched into pine-clad, rolling topography in the shadows of Mount Halla, at 6,000 feet, Korea's tallest mountain. At times the tumbling terrain resembles Scotland's Gleneagles. The variety of holes is superb, with no two consecutive holes that play in the same direction. Lakes, creeks and wooded slopes not only contribute to the beauty and variety, but are seamlessly integrated into the strategic aspects of the design.
Hirono Golf Club
The Japanese had never seen the kind of deep, strategically placed bunkers that architect C.H. Alison introduced to Hirono in the early 1930s, so that similar traps built on any course since are known as "Alisons." Jack Nicklaus ignored all of the cleverly placed "Alisons" on Hirono's dogleg-left, 565-yard, par-5 15th during a 1963 exhibition match to reach the green in two blows, a hitherto unprecedented feat. Originally, the course bore a heathland look, akin to London greats designed by Alison's partner, H.S. Colt, but heavy tree planting changed Hirono's character over the years.
Lahinch charms with titanic sandhills and stunning views of both the Atlantic Ocean and of the Cliffs of Moher. Old Tom Morris' 1893 design, coupled with Alister MacKenzie's 1927 renovation and Martin Hawtree's 2003 restoration form a seamless fit on ideal terrain, even as relics such as the par-5 4th and par-3 5th wow with their blind, old-fashioned quirk. Toss in MacKenzie's drivable par-4 13th, an intimate in-town setting and goats that act as weather barometers for an utterly enticing package.
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand
One of the world's Top 10 when it comes to eye-candy views, the back nine in particular at Cape Kidnappers boasts a sequence of staggeringly dramatic holes, starting with the tiny seaside par-3 13th and peaking with the 650-yard, par-5 15th which falls away on both sides of the fairway and which sports a horizon green that's perched precariously on a bluff overlooking the sea. Still, it's nature's fairway contouring and architect Tom Doak's virtuoso skill in designing green complexes that elevate the course.
Casa de Campo (Teeth of the Dog)
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Pete Dye's personal favorite of all of his designs, Teeth of the Dog is flat-out gorgeous, with seven holes practically sunk into the Caribbean Sea. Yet the design itself stands up to the aesthetics. Despite its intimidating name, Teeth of the Dog entrances, starting with its superior collection of par-3s. Its wide, level fairways, flattish, if imaginatively configured bunkers, its sensibly paced greens and its paucity of forced carries encourage quick play.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Not quite a links, but built on sand and next to the sea, Diamante is like golf in Ireland, only 30 degrees warmer. Gigantic sand dunes, Pacific Ocean panoramas and superb risk/reward variety are highlights, as well as unforgettable individual holes such as the par-3 second and par-5 17th. In February 2015, two seaside holes, the current 12th and 13th replaced inland predecessors.
New South Wales
La Perouse, Australia
New South Wales occupies sacred ground for Australians, for it was at this spot -- Botany Bay, where the fifth and sixth holes converge -- in 1770 that Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy "discovered" Australia. Designed by Dr. Alister MacKenzie, the layout's signature hole is the 195-yard, par-3 sixth, which demands a stout carry over an inlet of Cape Banks -- which wasn't actually MacKenzie's handiwork. Eric Apperly added this hole in 1937. The isolated back tee, set on a rocky perch in the surf, first appeared in 1951.
Bridport, Tasmania, Australia
Australia's greatest links achieves Top 40 status due in large part to the sophisticated Tom Doak/Mike Clayton design and partly due to the stirring seaside setting in Tasmania, with holes nestled down in the large dunes that run parallel to the ocean. The best of these may well be the par-4 15th that runs along an inlet with an adjacent dune ridge.
Perhaps the noblest of the London-area heathland courses, this charming, tree-lined track is dotted with heather patches and ingeniously placed bunkers. Architecture buffs will appreciate the par-4 fifth hole where the first man-made water hazard in golf design appears in the form of a pond on the right side of the fairway.
The Country Club (Clyde/Squirrel)
A Boston Brahmin society haunt for more than 100 years, this tree-lined track has played host to three U.S. Opens and the 1999 Ryder Cup. Its tournament course is a composite layout, comprised of 18 of the club's 27 holes. The Clyde/Squirrel combo was used for the 1913 Open when local lad Francis Ouimet stunned the Brits. The current "Open" course borrows several holes from the Primrose nine, designed by William Flynn in 1927.
Royal St. George's
This 14-time British Open host dates to 1887. "Sandwich" as it is known colloquially, serves up blind shots and supremely interesting contours in equal measure. Boasting the biggest sandhills of all Open venues, Royal St. George's heaving, dune-studded linksland also sports the rota's most fearsome bunker, a gaping fairway trap on the par-4 4th.
Many of the game's elite consider this course to be the finest of all Open rota layouts. Birkdale boasts towering sandhills and no blind shots, as most of the holes roll through valleys. Host to nine Opens, most recently Padraig Harrington's win in 2008, it might be best known as the site of the Concession, when Jack Nicklaus conceded Tony Jacklin's two-and-a-half footer to preserve a 16-16 tie in the 1969 Ryder Cup, one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship in golf history.
Baiting Hollow, N.Y.
Tree-dotted dunes, open meadows and bluff-top views of Long Island Sound highlight play at this understated 2003 Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design. The fact that it's Phil Mickelson's favorite modern course is further enticement. Holes such as the par-5 14th that incorporate a dazzling combination of strategy and beauty call to mind an east coast version of Cypress Point.
Los Angeles (North)
Los Angeles, Calif.
Gil Hanse's team restored George Thomas' Golden Age classic to perfection in 2011.Bunkers were reshaped and relocated, fairways were widened and re-shaped to provide alternate routes and a natural barranca was brought back into play as a strategic hazard. LA North occupies valuable real estate on the edge of Beverly Hills and after selective tree removal, players now enjoy long-hidden vistas of the city skyline and Santa Monica Mountains.
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Architect George C. Thomas Jr. took strategy and bunker configuration to new heights in the 1920s, notably at eucalyptus-lined Riviera in suburban L.A. As proof of his magical skills, look no further than the 311-yard, par-4 10th. Thanks to the inspired positioning of the bunkers and the green, the options on how to play this hole are limitless. The long, uphill par-4 closer is stellar as well, with its green benched into an amphitheater.
"Kingston Heath offers perhaps the best collection of par-3s without water in the world," claims Greg Norman." The Alister MacKenzie bunkering is phenomenal. Short by modern day technology, it's still visually demanding, visually impressive." Kingston Heath saw the Shark win the 1995 Australian Open there. More recently, Tiger Woods won the 2009 Australian Masters at Kingston Heath and Adam Scott the 2012 edition.
After weeks of tromping around the yucca-choked sandhills of Hutchinson, architect Perry Maxwell pronounced, "There are 118 good golf holes here. All I have to do is eliminate 100 of them." He eliminated 109 of them. Only nine holes were built in 1937 (the present-day 1,2,6,7,8,9,10,17 and 18) and Maxwell's son Press added the other nine 20 years later. All that's missing is an ocean at this linksy-looking layout that played host to the 2002 U.S. Women's Open (Juli Inkster) and 2006 U.S. Senior Open (Allen Doyle).
Chicago Golf Club
One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association in 1894, Chicago Golf, as it's known, was also site of the nation's first 18-hole golf course, as well as the first to host the U.S. Open outside of the Northeast. Seth Raynor retooled his mentor C.B. Macdonald's course in 1923 and not much has changed since, as it serves up a parkland/prairie blend of classic British template holes that its designers favored.
Dubbed "Car-Nasty" for its head-scratchingly hard setup for the 1999 British Open, this ancient links dates to 1842 and has hosted seven Opens in all. Heather, gorse, jungle-like fescue rough, steep-faced revetted bunkers and the sinuous Barry Burn create havoc in the wind. The toughest of the Open rota courses has witnessed winners such as Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Tom Watson. Its trio of closing holes, the mammoth 240-yard par-3 16th and the two rugged par-4s that follow have wreaked havoc on scorecards for decades, memorably to Jean Van de Velde's in 1999, when his chances drowned in the Barry Burn.
San Francisco, Calif.
A.W. Tillinghast may have crafted his most gorgeous collection of bunkers at this low-key Bay Area hideaway dating to 1918 that avoids publicity as steadfastly as its neighbor the Olympic Club embraces it. The highlight is the drop-shot par-3 7th, Tilly's favorite hole that he ever designed. Called the "Duel Hole," it was the site of the last legal duel in California history in 1859.
Trump Turnberry (Ailsa)
Now under the Trump aegis, Turnberry provides unforgettable images, from Tom Watson's heroic and tragic performances to remarkable seaside holes that feature churning surf, a lighthouse and vistas of the football-shaped monolith called Ailsa Craig jutting out of the sea. Rebuilt following its use for RAF airfields in World War II, the "Duel in the Sun" 1977 British Open venue will undergo changes in the next several years that will alter many of its most celebrated holes.
Due to its remote location in northwest Michigan, Crystal Downs was long overlooked and underrated. This 1932 Alister MacKenzie/Perry Maxwell collaboration became better known after Tom Doak introduced it to Ben Crenshaw in the 1980s and word began to spread. Don't be fooled by its miniscule 6,518 yards from the tips. Crystal Downs is perched on a bluff that peers down on both Lake Michigan and Crystal Lake, so the combination of strong breezes, thick fescue roughs, wildly undulating terrain and fiendishly contoured, firm and fast greens help keep the par of 70 an elusive target.
The highest ranking American links, this 2001 Tom Doak creation checks in as one of the greatest modern designs in the world. It fits so majestically into its billowing terrain, it looks like it's been there 100 years. Scattered blow-out bunkers, gigantic natural dunes, smartly contoured greens and Pacific panoramas are headliners.
Winged Foot (West)
Hale Irwin survived the 1974 "Massacre at Winged Foot" U.S. Open to win at seven-over-par. Geoff Ogilvy didn't fare much better in 2006, when his five-over total took home the trophy. 1996 PGA Champion Mark Brooks summed up this Golden Age A.W. Tillinghast design this way: "There are probably six hard holes, six really hard holes and six impossible holes." Frighteningly contoured, pear-shaped greens, cavernous bunkers and a procession of rugged par-4s define the trouble here. On a "difficulty" scale of 1 to 10, Jack Nicklaus once rated this a 12. Who are we to argue?
Juno Beach, Fla.,
This posh coastal retreat designed by Donald Ross challenges with palms, sea grape bushes, ocean breezes and a varied routing that encompasses two dune ridges. So impressed was Ben Hogan with Seminole's virtues, that he would play and practice here for 30 straight days each year leading up to the Masters. Architecture fans will get a rare glimpse inside the gates when Seminole hosts the 2021 Walker Cup.
Fishers Island, N.Y.
Accessible only by ferry, this exclusive retreat off Connecticut is populated by the oldest of the Old Money crowd, many of whom still enjoy hoofing it. Why wouldn't they, given the classic Seth Raynor design, the delightful tumbling terrain and the spectacular views of Long Island Sound. As Tom Doak put it, "I cannot deny that on a breezy summer's day, Fishers Island is one of the most idyllic places possible for a round of golf."
This Southwest Ireland gem is wedged between huge sandhills and the Atlantic Ocean. "Nothing less than the finest seaside course I have ever seen," stated Hall of Fame writer Herbert Warren Wind. Echoed five-time Open champion Tom Watson, "It is one of the best and most beautiful tests of links golf anywhere." With dunes, beach and sea all in sight and play, it's easy to see why Wind and Watson were so wowed. The par-4 11th, which dishes out a downhill plunge amid broken ground and a beach on the right is unforgettable.
Pinehurst (No. 2)
Donald Ross' 108-year-old chef d'oeuvre rolls gently and spaciously through tall Longleaf pines in the Carolina Sandhills, with holes culminating in the legendary "inverted saucer" greens that have confounded the game's very best since they were first grassed in 1935. For the 2014 U.S. Open, a Coore-Crenshaw restoration brought back the tawny-edged fairways and native roughs last seen in the 1940s.
Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
Portrush, N. Ireland
The only Irish course ever to host an Open is perennially ranked in the world's Top 15 courses, thanks to a superior 1929 H.S. Colt design that maximizes its setting in the high dunes along the Irish Sea. It features one of the great holes in golf, the 210-yard, par-3 14th, aptly named "Calamity." Amid whipping winds, a fade off the tee will plunge into a 75-foot-deep chasm short and right of the hole. At 16 years of age, Rory McIlroy shredded this fabled links in 61 strokes.
Royal Dornoch (Championship)
Labeled for years as "too remote," this seaside Old Tom Morris classic is worth the journey. After Tom Watson played here prior to his Open defense in 1981, he remarked that the experience was "the most fun I've ever had a on a golf course." Donald Ross grew up here and you can see his affinity for Dornoch's raised plateau greens on his American masterpiece, Pinehurst No. 2.
Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw had to move only teaspoons of dirt to construct the most natural, hew-to-the-land layout built in the past 50 years. Rolling, sandy terrain, rippled fairways crafted to accommodate ever-present winds, wavy prairie grasses and gigantic "blow-out" bunkers, which are in reality eroded dunes, create the sensation of being seaside in the middle of land-locked Nebraska. This 1994 design gave rise to the "If-you-build-it-they-will-come" generation of remote courses that would dominate course rankings for the next 20 years.
Royal Melbourne (West)
The appeal of Alister MacKenzie's Golden Age masterpiece is best explained by former world Number 1 Sir Nick Faldo. "I love the way it plays firm and fast-running, the way the bunkering frames and almost intrudes into the putting surfaces and the brilliance of the bunkering style with the native scrubby look. I'm also a fan of the often very wide fairways that reward positioning and of the mix of long and short par-4s. Add to this the splendid contouring of the greens and the rich variety of approach shots that you play into those greens."
Jack Nicklaus once said of Merion, "Acre for acre, it might be best test of golf in the world." At less than 7,000 yards from the tips, what makes Merion so distinctive -- and testing -- is its remarkable variety. Some par-4s are short, others are monsters. One par-3 is tiny, at 115 yards. The other par-3s measure 236, 246 and 256 yards. Holes play uphill, downhill and along the sides of small ridges. The famous par-4 11th, where Bobby Jones clinched the 1930 Grand Slam, is slashed by a creek, while the par-4 16th demands a shot over an abandoned stone quarry that is filled with wild growth of trees and shrubs. In short, Merion has everything.
National Golf Links of America
Venue for the 2013 Walker Cup Match, NGLA, or "National," as it's known, offers the greatest variety of strategic holes and greens in golf. There are blind shots, links-style holes that feature firm, fast-running fairways, forced carries and a remarkable mix of short and long holes. Pioneer American architect Charles Blair Macdonald admittedly crafted holes alongside Great Peconic Bay to mimic the greatest he had seen in his travels across Scotland and England, yet in many cases, his are better. The presence of a windmill next to the 16th green and the legendary lobster lunch adds to the ambience.
This 16-time Open Championship venue was never more testing or memorable than in 2013, when Phil Mickelson rode his 3-wood to victory. Its current course is a 1925 H.S. Colt creation that so impressed Jack Nicklaus in his 1966 win that he named his own major-worthy course in Ohio after it. Tom Weiskopf cites the primary appeal: "The continuous change in direction from hole to hole leads to different winds, great balance and maximum variety."
No course on earth plays so much viciously harder than it looks than Oakmont. No trees, no water, few forced carries and huge greens normally add up to a sea of red numbers for the game's best, but not here. Not with the ferocity of these greens (which they actually slow down for U.S. Opens), a lethal combination of speed, contour and firmness, plus brutal rough and more than 200 bunkers. Gene Sarazen described Oakmont as possessing "all the charm of a sock to the head." Echoed Johnny Miller, "It's the most difficult test of golf in America." And that's coming from two guys who won majors here.
Pebble Beach, Calif.
The first great American public seaside course, Pebble benefited from an ingenious Figure-8 design that brought the player right to ocean's edge, then away into the woods, then back again. The pacing of the holes, the small greens and the heroic shots over the Pacific were revolutionary for their time. Even today, no more thrilling, spectacular stretch of holes exists anywhere than holes 7 through 10. And is there anything in golf that can compare with that final stroll up the par-5 18th as it curves to the left around Carmel Bay?
Venue for four U.S. Opens since 1986, with a fifth on the way in 2018, Shinnecock boasts a William Flynn design that combines parkland bunkering and greens with a seaside sensibility. Its location adjacent to Great Peconic Bay means wind is a near-constant factor and its fescue-framed fairways resemble a British links. Toss in a storied hilltop clubhouse and a remarkably varied routing among heaving undulations and you have what Johnny Miller calls, "Golf's Holy Grail -- a genius course."
Royal County Down
Newcastle, N. Ireland
This 1889 Old Tom Morris creation is one of the most beautiful tests in the world, and one of the most brutal if the wind is up. Perhaps golf's most fearsome looking bunkers -- deep, with the fear factor amplified by the densely whiskered edges -- populate the entire course. Golf's best front nine boasts the 217-yard, par-3 4th, with its healthy, stunning carry over gorse bushes, and the blind par-4 9th that does offer other views, the Irish Sea, the Mountains of Mourne and the red brick steeple of the Slieve Donard Hotel among them.
Augusta National is the vision of Bobby Jones and his chosen architect, Alister MacKenzie. Both intended for Augusta National to reflect the spirit and strategic options of the Old Course at St. Andrews, the course that they admired most. They succeeded brilliantly. Nearly every hole at St. Andrews and Augusta National provides a safe route to the green and also a riskier one. Combine staggering beauty and Masters tradition and it's easy to see why Augusta National is so revered.
St. Andrews (Old Course)
The birthplace of golf features multiple blind bunkers, huge double greens, quirks such as the Road Hole and Hell Bunker and strategic options that vary by the day. The emphasis on variety and strategy became foundations for all great designs in years to come, including Augusta National.
Pebble Beach, Calif.
As Alister MacKenzie himself must have felt about his 1928 design, it's almost inconceivable that land this stunning was made available for golf. For the lucky few who have access to super-exclusive Cypress, they're privileged to enjoy the best walk in the sport. The trek to the 15th tee, amid wind, waves, deer, gnarled Cypress trees and near-isolation is spiritual. And the over-the-ocean, 231-yard, par-3 16th is golf's ultimate heroic gut-check.
Pine Valley, N.J.
There's no secret as to why Pine Valley has been ranked No. 1 in the World by GOLF Magazine since 1985. As architect Tom Doak once expressed, "Deep down, it's still golf's most awesome experience, a shining example of golf architecture in the raw so that even the color-blind can understand it. The course possesses more truly outstanding holes than any other I've seen." Uniquely beautiful and brutal, 97-year-old Pine Valley serves up multiple forced carries on holes that hopscotch from one island of turf to the next. It's an unforgettable gallop through trees, sand and scrub.